Vermont Foreign Language Association

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March 2011 Newsletter

Letter from the President

As a rural state, the needs of our membership are unique. Many of you work tirelessly every day in isolation as the lone world language teacher in your school. If you aren’t the only one, perhaps you are more fortunate to have one or two language colleagues with whom to collaborate. Our goal this year has been to improve the networking and communication mechanisms among our members so that you don’t have to stand solo. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, we invite you to join VFLA and instantly be connected to other language teachers from around the state and beyond. If you aren’t yet on Facebook or Twitter, we encourage you to check it out. There are many privacy settings to keep your information private and we think you will find that the benefits will far outweigh the drawbacks. Hey, maybe even one of your students could give you a tutorial?!

We hope you will find our newly designed website more user friendly. We use it to communicate information about our contests, professional development, and other news, so check it regularly. We will also continue to contact you via email for time-sensitive announcements and news.

Many of you have probably heard that the Fall VT-NEA Convention will not take place in its traditional format in the future. Due to this and a variety of other factors, VFLA is moving our fall conference to the spring. This has other implications on our calendar year as well, such as membership, board member elections, and our annual business meeting. Our membership year has traditionally followed the academic year. Now our membership will run January 1- December 31. Elections for board members and our annual business meeting will take place in the spring at Convention rather than in the fall.

We are now able to accept membership renewals and convention registrations on our website ( with PayPal! No more paper and no more checks! All on-line payments are secure through PayPal. You don’t need to have a PayPal account to use it; all major credit cards are accepted. If you renewed your membership last fall (2010) it will be active through December 31, 2011. No need to renew until January 2012!

So, mark your calendars for our Spring Convention…Differentiation in the Language Classroom on Friday, April 8 from 8am-3:30pm at Vermont College in Montpelier. We are putting together an awesome team of presenters and a top-notch program that promises to be one of the best VFLA has ever seen. Our day will start of with a bang as local DI expert Bill Rich (formerly of Colchester High School) engages you in a captivating and compelling key-note address. This will be followed by three workshop sessions – you can choose from DI by Readiness, Formative Assessment, DI by Leaning Profile, and Summative Assessment. If you consider yourself to be a DI “novice” we encourage you to attend our “Intro to DI” double session with Heather Baron (Colchester High School and St. Michael’s College) where she will help you develop a solid foundation in understanding the basic principals and beliefs of DI. If you choose this option, the third session will be of your choosing. Lunch will be catered by NECI. All of this for just $50! Visit our website to learn more and to register!

I must close by commending the hard work and dedication of your Board of Directors. Their insight, professionalism, creativity and diligence all contribute to the incredible success of this organization. They are all working behind the scenes to make VFLA better for you. If you are interested in serving as a Board member, I encourage you to submit a nomination (available at Elections will be held at Convention. 

Think Spring and see you at Convention!!


Jen McKenzie

VFLA President

Book Reviews

Anna and the French Kiss

available at bookstores

Please do not be put off by the title, which I can only suppose is to entice teenage girls into believing this is a book about sex in Paris. It’s not; true, Anna does have a love interest, but the relationship is shown to be about so much more than whether they do, in fact, “French kiss”. I heard this book recommended on NPR and was initially interested in reading it both because I have a new Beginning level French class and because I will be travelling to France with students in the April break.  The novel is set in Paris where Anna, at the insistence of her father, is to complete her senior year of high school at the School of America in Paris (SOAP). She does not speak French and would much prefer to stay at home in Atlanta with her best friend, her mother and her little brother. During the subsequent year, Anna learns a great deal about herself, her friends back in the States and those she makes at SOAP. Along the way, she learns some French language, traditions and how to find her away around the quartier. I thoroughly enjoyed this book; the characters are recognizable but not stereotypical, the relationships credible, the storyline engaging. There is some frank discussion of sexual activity, which is very well handled. Cultural allusions are many but not heavy handed, and Anna’s challenges as a beginning language learner are nicely portrayed. One of my sophomore girls read the book in just a weekend, telling me she could not put it down and now really wants to go to Paris. Youpi!

Agentes Secretos y el mural de Picass by Mira Canion

Available at Agentes secretos y el mural de Picasso

I picked up this short reader at the ACTFL conference in Boston and asked some of my Beginning Spanish students to read it and tell me if I should order a class set for next year. The response was a resounding “sí”. It contains just 100 new vocabulary words – with a glossary at the back – and many cognates. The story begins at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937 at which Picasso’s “Guernica” is on display and continues to Barcelona and Pamplona. These settings provide beginning students the opportunity to learn about Spanish art, history and culture, in the target language, as they follow the adventures of Paula, 22, and Luis, 23, who want to discover the secret rumored to be hidden in the mural before the secret agents dispatched by General Franco do so. My readers found the text interesting, not too challenging, and informative. As they put it, “It’s a great feeling to read a whole book in Spanish”.

If you have feed back or questions, I would love to hear from you.

You can reach me at

Profile of VFLA Member Helen Bishop

1. Tell us about your teaching position: I teach 60% French and 20% Title 1 in South Hero, VT. I teach all of the k-8 school, although since my position was reduced from 100% in 2009, I cannot teach them as much as I would like!
2. What is your favorite game? Personally, I love Scrabble, Lexulous and Combine on Facebook. My classes love using Eggspert for games, and my current favorite online class games are found at , or at
3. What is your least favorite food and why? I think raw mushrooms taste like dirt (my opinion). 
4. What is your proudest professional moment (from any part of your life)? I think reconnecting with the students from my past 30 years of teaching on Facebook, getting their feedback and hearing their stories, is a very rewarding and pride-producing feeling! Having high school teachers compliment my French students also ranks right up there!! 
5. What is your favorite classroom activity? I love it when everyone is engaged, small groups, online, doing activities at the tables, Words Come Alive drama activities (from the Flynn)… challenging themselves to excel… I love hearing French come independently from their lips! (A gal can dream, right?!!)
6. Do you have any pets? We have 3 cats, a leopard gecko and a beta fish named Carl! 
7. What is the most surprising thing about your job? I thought that after 30 years it would get easier, but that does not appear to be the case. In fact, it is more challenging than ever! But the positive effect of the Internet on my teaching options also ranks right up there! 
8. If you were a household appliance, what would you be? Is a sewing machine a household appliance? I love to sew and quilt! 
9. What is your favorite musical album? I have SO many… Springsteen’s Born to Run, Casting Crowns’ Lifesong, and Michael Card’s Poiema are high on the list! 
10. What one piece of advice could you give to teachers in our state? PLEASE get connected on VFLA on Facebook with us, and let’s start fighting together for elementary foreign language! It is not a “special”, nor a frill… It is essential for our children!!

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